Health care was one of the major issues in last November’s presidential election. And it was one of the first things the winner of that election began to focus on.
As a way of better knowing how Americans feel about the future of health care, and the problems they now encounter, President-elect Barack Obama asked health care providers to host community discussions.
Fayette County Hospital was among those taking Obama up on the offer, holding two such discussions last Thursday.
The morning discussion drew about a dozen participants, and the one that evening drew only a few local residents.
But, despite the low attendance figures, FCH President Greg Starnes said the discussions were valuable and worth holding.
“These are discussions that are going on every day in homes, in coffee shops and at other places in the community,” Starnes said.
“It’s such a complex matter,” he said. “You’re talking about such issues as cost (of health care), insurability and affordability.
The number of uninsured or underinsured Americans is now at 45-47 million, and that number is growing, due to layoffs and other economic issues in this country,” Starnes said.
In addition to gathering information that FCH has forwarded to Tom Daschle, whom Obama has picked to lead on the issue of health care reform, the hospital had secondary reason for hosting the discussions.
“I thought that as a hospital, as a health care provider, perhaps we could provide some information to you, such as the cost of equipment (that we use),” Starnes said.
Starnes said there were no surprises at the Thursday discussions.
“They were the kind of things that I anticipated hearing, the kinds of things we hear every day,” he said, talking about such issues as universal health care, chronic illnesses, individuals’ personal choices in health care and abuse of the system by those who don’t pay for their care.
Coming up time and again was the issue of preventive care.
“Preventive health care is something that Congress is going to be interested in,” Starnes said.
Right now, he said, “As a health care provider, we don’t get paid for preventive care.”
And, he said, “Doctors don’t get paid unless you’re sick.”
But it’s something that’s on the minds of people like Frank Croasdale, one of those attending the morning session.
For a smoker who has contracted lung cancer, Croasdale said, “They’ll pay to remove a lung, but they won’t pay for nicotine patches.
“You tell Tom Daschle that,” he said.
Croasdale also spoke on the issue of employers’ role in health care.
When he retired, Croasdale said, his employer told him that it would cover all of his health care expenses in the future.
“We took their word for it,” Croasdale said, and in 2004, the employer started taking out pension monies for deductibles and premiums.
Those retired employees filed a lawsuit to challenge that action.
Those at the morning session included Delbert Miller, the chairman of the Fayette County Hospital District Board.
Miller said health care is much different than it was half a century ago.
He remembered that he was paid $1 an hour at his first job, in 1959, and said he believed that the money he earned was to cover all of his expenses.
“I figured that my money was for my health care, for all of my needs.
“Of course, all of that has changed,” Miller said in explaining how society has changed.
He continues to hold onto the belief that, “People need to learn to help themselves.”